Imani Davis


Imani Davis (?-present) is a queer black poet from Brooklyn. They are currently attending the University of Pennsylvania, earning their BA in English and Africana Studies. They are a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow, Mellon Mays Fellow, and Stadler Center for Literary Arts Undergraduate Fellow and they serve as the Outreach Coordinator at the Kelly Writers House. Source

The Recital

‚Äč               with lyrics from “One, Two Step” by Ciara and Missy Elliot


Baby Phat coat a feather-stuffed

fist around my shoulders, I shuffle

onto the playground ready to

fight. I’ve clawed months of mornings

out of my mother’s calendar to reach

today: my official tryout for the Cool

Black Girls of 4th grade.

Legend has it their gossip turns

to gloss on they lips. Legend has it they can

suspend you with a look. The glitter-clique

has a simple audition: memorize Missy and Ciara’s slick

anthem for us and spit it like I got beef

with the devil himself. My first

lesson in what ferocity means to girls

with our sunset skin. I wouldn’t call it courage,

what nudges my hand-me-down Nikes

anxious across the blacktop. Instead, I name it

what we name the wolf’s instinct to bind to its pack.

This beat is automatic.

Who can call us prey

when we fang like this?

Side-eyes so box-cutter sharp

no white boy has talked to Saniyah in months.

Supersonic, hypnotic Everybody at recess know

she lying about having a knife. But there are some truths

you don’t let off the leash. Like how our mothers send us

to school without popping the bubblegum

dream that any of this will protect us.

That there isn’t a world of things that want us

dead that we can’t even pronounce yet. But I’m here,

in the midst of this black girl blood recital,

hoping to make the cut for safety. Deja don’t

think I got what it takes. Asks why I don’t have

the mandatory crush on Usher. And all I can think

of is the way her eyes catch the light. Here I was

thinking this club, this little swingset secret, was for black girls

that love black girls for life. That wanted to hold

a hand just as soft as theirs and know every good

shade of forever. I tell Deja I would follow her lip gloss

anywhere if she’d let me. But there are certain truths

you don’t let off the leash. Deja suck her teeth.

Tells me her mom said princesses don't

marry each other and I become the swingset beneath her.

Hold her every afternoon until she decides

she’s outgrown that kind of freedom.

It don't take long for my chances

of friendship to rust in the rain between us.

When I tell this story, I always say

I pushed her off the swings.





Literary Movements:

Spoken Word

Anthology Years:




Childhood & Coming of Age


Intersectionality & Culture

LGBTQ+ Experience

Music & Sports

Pop Culture

Rap & Hip Hop

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem


a compound expression in Old English and Old Norse poetry with metaphorical meaning


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a situation that seems to contradict itself


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times